Not that is was going anywhere, but the tower defence genre is seeing something of a revitalisation within the virtual reality (VR) scene. Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition is among the best of the launch line-up for the Oculus Rift, exploring what head-mounted displays (HMDs) can bring to a genre that already enjoyed a refresh with the advent of touchscreen gaming. Also looking to capitalise on this new opportunity is Kittypocalypse from Bolverk Games, due for release soon on the Oculus Rift.
This is a fair bit more on the whacky side of things following Defense Grid 2’s no-nonsense alien blasting. Extra-terrestrials are the threat once again, but this time around they’ve disguised themselves as adorable kittens that are intent of slipping past your defences and making their way to an end goal. If too many of the critters do this then it’s mission failed, but you fortunately have more than enough in your arsenal to prevent that from happening.
Kittypocalypse is as much an exercise in finding out how tower defence works in VR as it is creating an excellent entry into the genre. You’re given three levels of camera zoom, taking you from surveying an entire map – those previewed in the recent GDC demo consisting of desert canyons – to placing yourself right down in the action. The latter option is particularly engaging in VR; planting yourself in the gaggle of cats making a run for victory can feel like a bizarre twist on Saving Private Ryan, as explosions rock the scenery and cats start to fly off in several directions. It also gives you a chance to inspect their detailed designs, some of which sport neat touches like cardboard armour.
That said, the internet’s cat-crazed mindset is born out of a love for felines, not hate. It’s somewhat disturbing, then, to see the wide-eyed animals blown up in VR. This isn’t an excessively violent title – thank goodness – but it still feels a little strange, as if Bolverk Games has misunderstood why one of the most popular SubReddits on the internet is filled with pictures of the furry beasts.
Otherwise, two levels with the videogame also suggest that it’s completely competent in terms of gameplay. You get your standard assortment of towers; gatling guns are reliable for thinning the heard at close range, but you’ll want to think about where to place your further reaching missiles to get the most out of them. As per usual, towers can be upgraded too, making this a balancing act of knowing when to upgrade and when to invest in something new and not running out of the resources that build up as you take your opponents out.
Level design also promises to get more varied as things go. An initial stage is a simple straight line with a divide in the middle to split the crowd, but it doesn’t take long for Kittypocalypse to introduce twists like two goal zones, putting further pressure on the need for correct item placement.
It certainly seems like Kittypocalypse is set to be an entertaining entry into a popular genre, then, and an early example of how tower defence can excel in VR. What remains a mystery is just how deep this title will go; will it prove to be something that hardcore fans can really sink their teeth into or is Bolverk Games hoping to get by on the inherent silliness that surrounds the title. VRFocus is hoping for the former, no matter how well it’s delivering on the latter.